Tearing Out Your Eyes

   Author: Tim Bouffard

Something to think about...Tearing Out Your Eyes


Reading through the gospels allows us to encounter the wisdom, character and nature of God in a human being - Jesus. Wow! To say that Jesus is a fascinating person is like saying Niagara Falls is a dripping faucet. The life of Jesus as recorded in the four gospels is a very limited account of God in the flesh, yet in the recorded words and actions there is unending wonder and fathomless depth. 


I was moved recently by these words of Jesus: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). These inviting words of comfort and encouragement and assurance cause me to marvel at God’s goodness and grace. Jesus is amazing!


But I also read the following words of Jesus: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matthew 5:27-30). These strong words illicit a very different kind of response in me. What happened to the comforting and reassuring and gracious Jesus? These words are violent and discomforting. And they are a reminder that God takes sexual sin seriously. So should we.


The website of Enough Is Enough (EIE), a non-profit organization whose mission is to “make the internet safer for children and families” regularly updates statistics on the use, dangers of and trends in online pornography. Here are a few recent posts:


More than four in 10 Americans (43%) now say pornography is morally acceptable, a seven-percentage-point increase from last year (Gallup, June 2018).

One in six of the over 15000 global respondents has watched pornography on a public network, among other things (Neowin, July 2018).

Free access means porn use has skyrocketed. Today, many porn sites are free.  New York Magazine reported that a decade ago total daily adult site traffic averaged less than 1 million unique visitors on the entire internet.  Today, free Mindgeek tube sites alone receive 100 million unique visitors per day (The Economist – 2015).      

About 200,000 Americans are classified as “porn addicts.”

40 million American people regularly visit porn sites.

35% of all internet downloads are related to pornography.

34% of internet users have experienced unwanted exposure to pornographic content through ads, pop up ads, misdirected links or emails.

One-third of porn viewers are women.


These statistics merely scratch the surface of the vast research being done on pornography and it's overwhelming negative influence on society. And the church is in no way immune to this influence. A 2014 Pornography Survey revealed that 21% of Christian men and 2% of Christian women say they think they might be “addicted” to pornography or aren’t sure if they are (compared to 10% of non-Christian men and 4% of non-Christian women). These numbers do not reflect Christians who struggle with pornography at a level they do not believe is addiction. Nor do they reflect an unfortunate reality: Sexual sin is viewed with significant shame amongst Christians and is rarely talked about. This suggests that pornography use among Christians is likely higher than what research shows.


In my experience as a pastor, I can vouch for this sobering reality. Fellow believers who are wrestling with this issue have difficulty in saying so and even when they do, most are reluctant to talk to others about it. Unfortunately, this greatly limits the very help, encouragement and accountability that is needed to overcome the problem.


Pornography (as well as other stimulating and addictive habits such as food and substance abuse) are influenced by at least four main components: physiological, personal, relational and spiritual. Much can be said about each of these factors, but a summary of each will be helpful in understanding how we can help each other honor God in our sexuality.




In addition to the obvious parts of our bodies that are part of sexual experiences, the human brain also plays a significant role. It has often been said that a human’s most important sexual organ is the brain. Indeed, it is a complex and influential organ that is responsible for activities and effects that go beyond the momentary pleasure of sex. Brain structures and chemicals combine to create complicated and powerful processes. In their book, “Hooked: New Science On How Casual Sex Is Affecting Our Children” authors Freda McKissic Bush and Joe McIlhaney Jr. explain that these brain processes “are designed to lead toward and strengthen long-term monogamous relationships, supporting and reinforcing the family structure that is so vital to our survival.” But these brain functions are values-neutral; they are physiological systems that occur whether we want them to or not. McKissic and McIlhaney go on to warn that these chemicals and processes “can produce involuntary responses that result in all kinds of behavior, including activities that are dangerous or unwise.” And these behaviors, such as viewing pornography, can become addictive.




By “personal” I am referring to our human nature and personal longings - what scripture often refers to as flesh and heart. God made humans as sexual beings and that part of us is normal and natural. But it has also been marred by sin and selfishness. Those who believe that sexual sin, including viewing pornography, is merely a means of satisfying a physiological need or desire, fail to see (or perhaps ignore) the psychological and emotional dynamics involved. While lust and sexual gratification are powerful forces, people also engage in sexual sin for more personal reasons. For some, viewing pornography can reduce stress, soothe rattled emotions and provide a sense of control that may not be experienced in other areas of one’s life.


In their book, “The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb” Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel explore the dangers of flesh-oriented and ambitious power in ministry and relationships. In talking about power as a means of control, they use pornography as an example:


“For example, scientific studies have now shown that watching pornography rewires the brain, such that our sexuality becomes more and more distorted and subhuman. Pornography addiction is not more of the same, but is an addiction that needs more and different. What is different sexually turns violent and deviant quickly; it becomes a dehumanizing act. Our sexuality is designed for spiritual and physical union within the covenant of marriage—the self-giving and embracing of one another in love—but pornography is the practice of purely selfish sexual behavior. Pornography dehumanizes the person watching by reworking the contours of their sexuality in isolation, without a physical partner in covenantal union. The result is a shift of sexuality into the realm of power and control.”


Whereas God designed sexuality to be a shared experience in the intimate bond of marriage, pornography (and behaviors that often accompany it) is private and provides a sense of control and personal influence and power rather than a mutual experience of giving and sharing. It is often too simplistic to view sexual sin like pornography as an isolated and basic issue or struggle. In fact, sexual sin is almost always motivated by deep disappointment, hurt, loss and longing.




The personal nature of sexuality is directly connected to the relational aspect of our humanity. God created and designed us for relationship - with him and with each other. His good desire and plan for us was to experience sexuality in the context of the marriage relationship. Although this has been negatively influenced by sin and pride, God’s intention for sexuality to be a shared experience has not changed. The very fact that human sexuality has been warped by sin is the reason we struggle with things like pornography. Something good and beautiful has been twisted and spoiled. While sex is a powerful influence for good in marriage, sexual sin is a destructive force. As Goggin and Strobel expressed, “Pornography is the practice of purely selfish sexual behavior.”


Pornography isolates the user, alienates his or her spouse (even when they are not aware of the struggle) and eventually results in sexual dysfunction and marital discord. But pornography among unmarried people has an additional negative effect: People no longer feel the need for intimate relationships.


“For many individuals, the more porn they consume, the more likely it is that they can end up preferring the fantasy to reality, they can end up preferring the pixels to a person, and that's really messing up relationships, as you can imagine,” said Clay Olsen, co-founder of the internet movement “Fight the New Drug” (FTND). A growing trend in societies where pornography is easily accessible is lower marriage rates. This significantly harms societies and obviously is in contrast with God’s design for humanity. Just as substance abuse alienates the abuser from family and friends, pornography isolates the user from their spouse or diminishes their desire for intimacy with a potential mate.




The fact that human sexuality has a spiritual component is perhaps so obvious to us as Christ-followers that we are beginning to neglect or forget potential negative and positive outcomes in the spiritual realm. The negative spiritual outcomes are often crowded out by the previous dynamics we have already considered. When our brains become wired for more stimulation, when our deep personal longings are temporarily fulfilled and when our need for real relationships is slowly replaced by fantasy relationships, sexual sin such as pornography replaces God in our lives. Pornography, like all other sin, is idolatry. God hates idolatry. Idolatry is the exact opposite of what we were created to do and to be. And it not only destroys our relationship with God, it destroys us. Idolatry leads to death. God made our brains to be stimulated by what is good and pure and righteous. God created us to long for him and to find fulfillment and satisfaction in relationship with him. God designed us for relationships with each other, including the marriage relationship in which sexual expression becomes mutual and selfless and life-embracing. Sexual sin ruins God’s good purposes for us.


Knowing that God desires holiness in this area should be a warning and motivation to pursue sexual purity. Also, knowing that in Jesus, God took on himself our sexual sin and suffered death to provide forgiveness, we should be encouraged to go to him for help. He knows we struggle with sexual sin just as much as we struggle with disunity, gossip, rage and deceit. He wants to help us and we cannot overcome the struggle with any sin without his help.


And this brings us back to the unexpected, harsh words of Jesus in Matthew 5. What does it look like to take the radical step of metaphorically tearing out our eyes in order to avoid the sin of viewing pornography? Here are some practical suggestions.


Avoiding and becoming free from the sexual sin of pornography…


Communicate honestly with God and others. Without vulnerability, we remain alone in our struggle with sin. Talk to someone you trust about your struggle. And most importantly, talk to God about it. Confess it. Cry out for help. Tell him the truth. Beg for mercy. Your prayers won’t change him; he is the God who forgives, the God who helps, the God who listens, the God of all mercy. But your prayers will begin to change you. Talking to God about the struggle will keep you honest and hopeful and will deepen your trust. 

Get rid of access to pornography. While there are apps and software that provide accountability and limit purposeful or accidental access to pornography on the internet, research shows that they are not nearly as helpful as eliminating access altogether. Many people falsely believe that they cannot function without internet access and indeed, every aspect of our lives are becoming more dependent on that access. But limiting access is not nearly as difficult as we sometimes make it out to be. Sacrifices may need to be made, but the benefits will far outweigh the inconveniences. If you are seriously struggling with pornography, explore and consider ways you can limit access.

Change your habits and routine. Most people who struggle with pornography have developed specific times and places in which they view it. Change your schedule and routines if necessary. Avoid extended periods of down-time and useless web-browsing. Use computers and internet devices for specific purposes. And then go and do something else with your time. Laziness, boredom and inactivity lead to unhealthy abuses of all sorts. Read books, exercise, spend time with family, volunteer at church, school or in the community. Replace the time spent viewing pornography with something constructive, healthy and God-honoring.

Help each other. Be willing to help someone with accountability and be accountable to someone. Find someone who is willing to pray for you - even at inconvenient times of the day or night. Simply reaching out via phone or text message to tell a friend, spouse, sibling or parent, expressing your struggle in the moment, can often provide the help needed to overcome temptation. Knowing we are not alone in the struggle makes a significant difference.


Beginning in August, we will host a bi-weekly gathering for men on Saturday mornings to provide help, education, encouragement and accountability in this area. Consider participating, especially if you are seriously struggling with the issue. And we are in need of a woman or two who would be willing to facilitate a similar gathering for women. Please contact me if you are interested.


For further help in this area and in other topics related to sexuality, visit the website of Harvest USA which is one of our church’s local discipleship partners. They provide resources for individuals, families and churches and have been of help to people in our church. Anyone needing to discuss their struggle privately should contact one of the pastors. And may we all pray for holiness and healing for the church of Jesus and for the lost who are caught up in this destructive activity.